Natalie Parsons - Volunteer in Communications at Cycling UK National Office in Guildford
Name and role
Natalie Parsons, Communications Assistant at Cycling UK. I live in Guildford, Surrey, and volunteered at Cycling UK in Guildford from February this year (2017).
What made you decide to volunteer your skills with Cycling UK?
I had a degree in English and Creative Writing, with some limited experience in writing, editing and publishing from subsequent jobs. I wanted to brush up my skills in writing and editing, and volunteering meant I was being paid in solid gold experience by knowledgeable and hardworking people.
How much time were you able to commit?
Two days a week – roughly 12 hours, sometimes more.
What did you support?
Initially, I worked on updating affiliate and Member Group pages on the website, but was "stolen" by the Communications team for other tasks about a month in.
What was the greatest challenge you encountered?
The "Oh gosh, oops, oh no, how to fix this…?" feeling in the first few weeks while using CMS features I hadn’t before!
Really, the greatest issue was dealing with a mix of small challenges that could come up at any moment. Like – something wasn’t uploading properly, I couldn’t find something somebody asked me for, and my laptop was running out of battery. It could be anything. And doing every task with the same focus, even if I hated it. The usual!
Describe a typical day in your volunteer role.
It changed every day, depending on what was needed for that day.
It started with using a spreadsheet of information to edit and update affiliate group pages. I was then asked to come in earlier to go through the news for the day to flag up what stories were related to cycling, children’s health relating to exercise and their environment, and the environment in general, and send that information to a mailing list.
I gradually spent less time on the affiliate groups pages as I was asked to do small tasks by the Comms team – like upload and tag photos on online photo depository Skyfish, write an article, upload content to the website, email MPs, find media contacts for events, find photos for publications and more.
Of all the tasks you helped on, what are you most proud of?
Mostly I did small tasks but I was most proud of tracking down obscure news outlets’ contact details on a system I hadn’t used before in a small timeframe.
What did you get out of the experience?
Experience is what I got out of the experience. I’d not worked in an official office environment before. I’d not used resources like Gorkana (a news monitoring service) or Skyfish before. I’d not heard random casual conversations about how to foster relationships between Cycling UK and the Department for Transport, or something similar. I have now.
What would you say to someone considering volunteering with Cycling UK?
Do it! You’ll always have something to do – it’s never boring. There’s always something going on you can get stuck into.